Understanding Strategy: Moving from Checklist to Vision

strategy 3I have to admit, I love checklists! They’re invaluable for me to stay organized and I find checklists a great way to prioritize and make sure that nothing gets forgotten or ignored in setting agendas, whether in business or my personal life. However, I do believe that checklists, while a great tool, cannot be used indiscriminately.

A critical instance where I have observed this is when people are trying to formulate a business strategy. There are many entrepreneurs who settle for a checklist without realizing that planning a strategy for your business is about deeply understanding what your business means.

It’s about knowing what you want and what your goals are, not just financially but personally; how hard you want to work, what’s your life/work balance philosophy. Without this comprehensive understanding, what you have cannot have a meaningful business strategy.

Before going any further I want to emphasize that when it comes to business strategy, every business owner should know that there is no one right answer, there is only what is right for you and your family.

Factors to Consider:

Strengths and Weaknesses:

As you sit out to plot the course of your business think in terms of strengths. What you good at? Remember to think also in terms of what you are not good at – this is to ensure that you can focus your energy on optimizing your strong points.

By acknowledging your weak areas, personally and as a team, you are also more likely to get the right kind of support and help. For example, listing your strengths and weakness can help you decide whether you need help in engineering, programming, graphic designing, copywriting or content writing.

Similarly you are more likely to address needs in your hiring of personnel if you have identified your areas of weakness. So, understanding your strength and weakness can be an important part of your outsourcing, consulting and hiring strategies.

Target market:

In determining your business strategy, remember to factor in market needs and demands. Does this sound obvious? It surprises me, even now in the age of social media, and with all the content about “know your customer,” there are many business owners I meet who do not know their real customers. They may have an idea of their target customer but they have not user data and analytics to fine tune their customer profile. Additionally, in cases where the businesses have an idea of their target market they compartmentalize this information and do not weave it into the strategizing for business efficiency. I also see target market conversations as a way to ensure that there is a constant awareness of the end goal.

Employee motivation:

As I tell my business clients, think more like a leader than a boss. Figure out the elements of your business where you can motivate your employees to take on a sense of pride and responsibility and make these goals an inherent part of your strategy. The personal buy-in will mean that every person in your organization has a vested interest in the company, moving their motivation beyond the next pay check.

Making it Happen:

A good organizational planner understands that to move from the realm of a wish list to creating a vision the most important element is execution. We know that whether it’s a kids birthday party or a mega conference careful planning becomes actuality depending on the quality of execution. This holds true for business strategies too.

When creating a business strategy, give sufficient attention to the follow through. A successful entrepreneur should plan on the daily discipline of checking in with the team, checking the metrics that govern the business. Some people find these details boring and see it as secondary to “making the sale.” However, this kind of discipline and adherence to plan is what marks the difference between okay businesses and the really successful ones.

There are some business owners who are easily distracted, jumping from trend to trend caught up with the latest fad. I see this as a recipe for disaster as it’s the equivalent of building a skyscraper without a blueprint. Without a clear set path, it’s challenging for a leader to lead and super difficult for your people to follow.

If they feel clueless and are always wondering if they are coming or going, it’s difficult for them to make decisions as things are always in flux. This may prompt them to avoid decision making and they may well leave all decision making only up to you which means it’s your decision, and when it fails, it’s all on you, they have no stake in the failure.

On the other hand they may also make ill-fated decision like hiring too many people without clear goals that ultimately will deplete your cash flow. Sadly, I’ve seen this happen first hand.

You, as the business owner, cannot punt this strategy or abdicate your responsibility. This is a case where the leader has to lead from the front. Set the strategy and ensure its execution.

Be clear in your daily goals, weekly target and annual expectations. This will ensure that there is a collective sense of preparation and achievement. It also means that when things go wrong, which is not an unlikely event in running a business, there can be a collective effort at course correction.

Delegation is easier in this scenario and that is phenomenal for team building. By setting a clear strategy and defining the expectations, by creating a vision for your organization, you will help create a team that can handle the good and bad days.

Written by: Shirley Tan


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